Tag Archives: Mariano Rivera

A fantastic new book about the 1970s skyjacking epidemic. The Sandman enters one more time. And the toilet that’s also a sink

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One of the reasons I love reading non-fiction so much is because it teaches me about things, and people, I didn’t know about.

I would bet less than one percent of Americans alive today have any idea who Roger Holder and Cathy Kerkow were, but for a few months in 1972, they were as famous as Kanye and Jay-Z.

Holder, a disgruntled African-American Vietnam vet with mental health problems, and his girlfriend Kerkow, a beautiful hippie chick under Holder’s spell, pulled off an incredible hijacking of a Western Airlines plane in 1972, taking it all the way from San Diego to, eventually, Algeria.
And they got away with it.

This was in the midst of the American hijacking epidemic of the 1960s and 70s, something I bet you didn’t even know existed.
I only know it happened because I just finished Brendan Koerner’s thrilling new book about the time period, “The Skies Belong To Us.” It’s a gripping tale with so many twists and turns, and famous cameos (Eldridge Cleaver of the Black Panthers and Joan Baez, to name just two), and an impossible-to-put down narrative.

Fact No. 1 that may blow your mind: Did you know that from 1968-72, there was an average of one skyjacking of U.S. airplanes per week?
Fact No. 2 that may blow your mind: Did you know that the airlines fought tooth and nail against further security measures?
Fact No. 3 that may blow your mind: Many, many of these hijackings were successful, but Holder and Kerkow’s was the boldest and the biggest.

It’s fascinating in hindsight to think about how easy air travel used to be; so much of what we endure now was unthinkable back then.
It’s also easy to say, in hindsight, how easy it was to take over planes. In the midst of all the other chaos of that era, it wasn’t hard at all to bring a weapon onto a 737, demand entry into the cockpit, and get flown whereever you want.

I won’t give away what happens to Holder and Kerkow, but Koerner uses exquisite detail (truly re-creating a day by day, minute-by-minute log at times) and writes very entertainingly about some of the period’s other crazy hijackers.

It’s a fairly quick read and a wonderful view into a part of American history that sure isn’t taught in schools.

It’s a perfect summer read.

**Next up, a very cool moment at Tuesday night’s Major League Baseball All-Star-Game, which I didn’t watch because, well, it’s an All-Star-Game and they’re meaningless.

But it was the last time the great Mariano Rivera would appear at one of these things, so the fans and the other players gave him this wonderful tribute…

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**Finally, time for another round of “Was the world really needing this invention?”

A designer from Latvia has come up with a product that absolutely no one was crying out for: A combination urinal/sink.

Kaspars Jursons’ new brainchild is a urinal with a built-in tap, and it automatically turns on when you stop peeing. So you can wash your hands immediately.

Because yeah, THAT’s the reason guys who don’t wash up after peeing offer as a defense: The sink was just too far away.

Good heavens, can we get any lazier as a people?

A beautiful love story of a wrongly convicted man finding life again. Duke destroys Carolina and I am happy. And the great Rivera calls it quits

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It’s Monday, none of us are thrilled to be at work, and I think a nice pick-me-up story is in order.
Luckily, I read this one Sunday and couldn’t stop smiling. In the New York Times wedding section arrived the story of Michael Morton, who for 25 years sat rotting in prison for the murder of his wife. Problem is, he didn’t do it, as DNA evidence finally proved in 2011, and Morton was released.

Soon after, while telling his story to his hometown church, Morton met Cynthia Chessman, who was moved by his lack of bitterness. They went out for coffee soon after, and, well, click here for the rest.
You never know where love will find you.

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**Another incredible weekend of college basketball, highlighted for me, of course, by that absolutely ass-kicking Duke handed to North Carolina in the Dean Dome Saturday night. I haven’t seen Duke play as well on offense as they did in the first five minutes, since, well, ever. It was 14-0 after less than three minutes and the game was never really close after that.
Seth Curry couldn’t miss, Mason Plumlee dominated the second half, and Carolina couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat.

I called my fellow diehard hoops fan friend Tony late in the first half to paraphrase Shannon Sharpe’s great old quote when the Broncos stomped the Patriots.

“Somebody call the National Guard, because Duke is killing the Tar Heels.”

Truly, it was a fantastic display by the Blue Devils, and I see no reason why they won’t be a No. 1 seed when the Big Dance starts.

Couple other thoughts from a wild March weekend of hoops:
— That Indiana-Michigan game Sunday was fantastic. Intense, back and forth, filled with great plays by both teams and a massive comeback from IU in the final minute; down five, they came back and won by a point. Cody Zeller is one hell of a player, but Michigan, you gotta make those free throws.
— My favorite thing this time of year is seeing how excited the little schools get when they win their conference tournament and advance to the NCAAs. The joy and thrill on their faces is such a nice antidote to so much of the slime that envelops college sports. Look how excited the kids from Creighton got after they won Sunday.

— My Delaware Blue Hens got robbed by the refs in the final seconds of the CAA semifinals Sunday, not that anyone besides me cares. UD had a great shot to get into the Tournament this year, but alas, we’ll have to rely on our awesome women’s team led by Elena DelleDonne to carry the torch now.

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**Mariano Rivera. It’s a beautiful, lyrical name, isn’t it? Rolls off the tongue perfectly, and for nearly 20 years, it’s been the last name Yankees fans like myself have had to pay attention to when a game was in the 9th inning and the Bombers had the lead.

“Mariano’s in. Game over.”

That’s how it’s pretty much been for the past 17 seasons, until last year, when the greatest relief pitcher of all time got hurt, and what was to be his final season was aborted pretty much before it began.

Now, though, Rivera’s healthy again and has officially announced his retirement come the end of the 2013 year. He’s had an amazing, amazing career, and amazing isn’t even a strong enough word.

The stat on the photo above is just one of the staggering numbers that make Rivera’s career so fabulous; he’s been one Yankee who seems impossible for non-Yankees fans to hate.
He has exuded class and dignity and a sense of humor throughout his career (when his blown saves in 2004 playoffs helped the Red Sox win the World Series, Sox fans cheered him on Opening Day ’05 at Fenway. Rivera just laughed and laughed).

He will be missed, and I for one will try to catch as many 9th innings of Yankee wins as I can this year. We won’t likely ever again see a closer as great as he is, and I’m glad we get one more year to enjoy him.

Great letters from Presidents past. The great Mariano Rivera begins his curtain call. And a Charles Dickens theme park, seriously?

You want to make history come alive for today’s kids? This is one great way to do it.
This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while. The fabulous website Mentalfloss.com has highlighted 10 of the best letters from U.S. Presidents in history, as compiled by the organization Letters of Note. This compilation, which has the original letters as well as an easier-to-read transcription, has some beauties in here.
John F. Kennedy’s childhood letter to his father, asking for a bigger allowance so he can buy “cholcalote marshmellow sunday with vanilla ice cream. (OK, so young JFK wasn’t the best speller.) Bill Clinton’s letter to Chris Webber after the ex-Michigan star made a huge mistake in the 1993 NCAA championship game. A brilliantly scathing, short note from Harry Truman to a critic who ripped Truman ‘s daughter’s performance on stage. An Abraham Lincoln letter to some schoolchildren who wanted all slaves to be freed.

And in what may be the first time I ever say anything nice about Ronald Reagan, a touching and warm love letter he wrote to Nancy on their 20th anniversary (above. The transcription is wonderful if you can’t read Ronnie’s handwriting).

These are living, breathing documents that give us insight into how some of these great minds work. It’s truly a wonderful way to spend a few minutes.

**Well, we Yankees fans knew this day would come at some point. But it’s still going to be rough.
The great Mariano Rivera, the finest relief pitcher of all time and a man whose ticket to Cooperstown has already been bought and paid for, hinted when he got to spring training this week that the 2012 season may be his last.

Rivera, who has been throwing the same pitch for 16 years and still getting batters out with it, is the epitome of class and grace. Even Yankees haters can’t find anything bad to say about him. Baseball, and Yankee Stadium, will be a poorer place when No. 42 hangs it up. Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal has a nice column up about Rivera here.

**And finally today, an idea I can’t believe made it all the way through to fruition. Some geniuses in England decided that the best way to keep the memory of Charles Dickens and his books alive was to create Dickens World, a theme park dedicated to the author of books mostly about bleakness, and despair.

There are actual rides like the Great Expectations Flume Ride, which drops you off into a sewer, and the operators of the park have even created authentic smells, like the ones found at the lovely orphanage in “Oliver’s Twist.”

I would love to know exactly who the demographic is for this place. And I also want to know how bored you have to be before saying on a European vacation “Mom, Dad, let’s go splash into a sewer!”

Getting over your fear of heights isn’t helped when you’re trapped 50 feet up. Some Mariano Rivera love. And “Friday Night Lights” blows me away again

So pretend for a minute that you’re Talia Rodriguez, a recently-engaged woman in Texas. You’re getting set to marry the man of your dreams, William Mancera, but he has a paralyzing fear of heights.
So you decide that to help him overcome it, the two of you will go to the Zero Gravity Amusement Park in Dallas and go on the Texas Blastoff Bungee Ridge.
Great idea, right? William will see there’s nothing to be scared of.
Ah, Talia. Such a good idea at the time. How could she have known that the cords on the ride would get tangled, and the pair would get stuck 50 feet in the air, dangling, for three hours?
They had to be rescued by the fire department. Fortunately, they weren’t injured.
I love this quote from Talia:  “We will never go on these ever, ever again,” she said. “Our kids will never go on them, our brothers and sisters will never go on them – we’re done.”
Sometimes, true love is literally found in the clouds.

**I’m a pretty lapsed baseball fan, and a lapsed Yankees fan to boot. But Friday night the Yankees and Red Sox, tied for first place and playing each other at Fenway, sucked me back in a little bit.
And in the 9th inning, I got to thinking about Mariano Rivera. He’s been taken so for granted by Yankees fans, and baseball fans in general, because he’s been so good for so long. But do you realize how incredible it is that No. 42 is still getting the job done as a relief pitcher, 15 years after starting to dominate? And he still does it with two basic pitches. And the batters know what’s coming, and he knows they know, and this legend of the mound, now 41 years old, is still getting it done.
People talk about Pedro Martinez or Roger Clemens or Greg Maddux being the best pitchers of the last 25 years.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s Mo.
If you want to read more about Rivera, here’s Tom Verducci’s stellar profile of him from 2009.

**So I’ve mentioned before that I came very late to the party on “Friday Night Lights,” but have been catching up on Netflix a season at a time.
I’m almost done with Season 4 right now, and Friday night I saw maybe the best episode in the show’s history, the one called “I Can’t.”
More proof that this brilliant show was more than about just football: This episode was the most honest, accurate portrayal of a teenager’s wrenching struggle about whether to have an abortion as I’ve ever seen on TV. I ripped “Desperate Housewives” a while back for not having the guts to even discuss abortion on TV.
Well, “Friday Night Lights” had the guts to go there, and thanks to brilliant writing and acting, it was a hell of a show. Man, I can’t wait to get to Season 5, because Season 4 has been sensational.

No. 27. And it feels so good. A scary sperm story. And a 1-year anniversary

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You get a lot of crap for being a Yankees fan.

People are always trying to spoil your fun, saying things like “Well OF COURSE the Yankees win, they spend $400 trillion on players every year,” and “How can you root for such a huge, soulless organization?” and “The Yankees are so obnoxious and hateable.”

Normally, I cut those people some slack. Yes, the Yankees spend more than any other team, and have greater resources to do so. Yes, many Yankees fans are obnoxious, I assent.

But to those people today, I say sit down, and please shut up. The 27th World Series ring won by the Yankees last night is clogging my ears, and I cannot hear you.

It’s been nine years since I saw the Yankees win a Series, which is really not that long (George W. Bush was about to be elected the last time the Yanks won, in 2000.) Lots of franchises would dream of only having to wait nine years between parades through downtown.

Still, Wednesday night felt fresh. Not as fresh as the 1996 Series win, which was the first Yankees championship I remember, as I was 5 years old in 1981. That ’96 title will always be my favorite, because the Yanks had been so bad or mediocre throughout my childhood, and now finally, as Charlie Hayes squeezed the last foul pop for the last out (I can close my eyes and still see that play), they were champs.

But this one felt a little new. Sure, most of the players have been bought, and baseball will never be truly fair like the NFL until there’s salary equity, and real revenue sharing.

But watching old-time Yankees like Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada and The Great Rivera, win one more crown, reminded me of the dynasty of the late 1990s. It was the capstone to Jeter’s career, this title, the “One for the Thumb” that makes him even more of a shoo-in Hall of Famer than he already was.

I somewhat rationalize my being a Yankees fan to people by quickly pointing out that I also root for the New York Jets and the New York Rangers, teams that have won 2 championships in the last 40 years, combined (I was only alive for one of them, the ’94 Rangers Stanley Cup, which still gives me chills to even think about).

So I don’t get that many chances to see my teams win it all. Today is a glorious day for all Yankees fans, especially those of us who remember the Roy Smalley and Mike Pagliarulo era. I am happy.

Couple other final World Series thoughts:

**If that was Pedro’s final appearance at Yankee Stadium, I’d say Yankees fans will remember him fondly.
**At 7-3, with two on and Chase (Reggie Jackson) Utley up, I was definitely nervous.
**Does Joe Girardi have to change his uniform number now that the Yanks won title No. 27?
**You really never see any African-American fans at baseball games anymore. Just sayin.’

**So this is kind of a strange story. According to London’s  The Daily Mail, a Pennsylvania woman discovered she is allergic to her husband’s sperm. The couple had unprotected sex for the first time on their wedding night (aww, how quaint) and her body completely rejected it.

I am too terrified to even make a joke about this.

And finally, I’ll write more about this tomorrow, but thought many of you might enjoy this memory, a piece of video that helped make Nov. 4, 2008 possible: